Lately in Oil Country, the subject of discussion has not been Nail Yakupov’s concussion or the freak puck to the leg of Ales Hemsky. No, rather, it has been the growing legion of fans who are asking for the head of Kevin Lowe. From a Facebook group that has garnered thousands of “likes” to a street sign in front of the Oilers office near Kingsway, to a billboard that apparently will be erected along the Yellowhead, the fan base has never been so rabid.
But is Lowe really the problem? Is it Mact? Is Dallas Eakins a terrible coach? Should they fire Buchburger and Smith? Lots of questions. Oilers owner Daryl Katz tried to assuage some of the anger through his letter to the fans posted to the official website of the team. But the letter just confirmed what fans have already heard–we’re staying the course, Lowe and MacT are staying put and no trades will be made that threaten the future.
While a few fans appreciated Katz poking his head out of the mansion for 5 minutes, the letter offered no real substantive news. It did recognize this as a losing season, and for some that was enough. What fans really want, though, is a scapegoat, a guy or a coach they can crucify so they have a real, hard target for their anger. The Oilers don’t seem to want to offer one, at least not right now.
In all likelihood, fans are going to have to wait until the off-season. Once the team has made it through the draft and the trade deadline, the summer should see MacT put the finishing touches on this rebuild. Chicago wants a center: trade Gagner for Bickell straight up? Buffalo needs offense: Hemsky and a prospect for Myers? Oh hell, who really knows what the market will give the Oilers–but those types of moves are needed. The kind where a surplus type of player brings in a more essential part.
The Oilers of next season should look bigger, with a more threatening blue line and a solid goalie tandem. But it will take a major move in free agency as well. There are parts available to fix this ride, but some players may choose to hop into a hotter car (on roads with less ice and potholes).
Regardless, if the team bottom feeds again next year, there will need to be a head or two rolling, In my opinion? Steve Smith should start cashing in his RRSP’s. He has coached the league worst defense long enough. Start with him, and you may see the pitchforks held a little lower.
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